State of the Girardi: Underdog Yankees need to get creative

Joe Girardi won't close his eyes to the possibility of a six-man rotation or a two-headed closer. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

TAMPA, Fla. -- During his state of the Yankees address Friday, Joe Girardi was asked if his team was an underdog this year. Girardi didn't really answer the question, instead using some mumbo-jumbo about how he likes his players and is excited to get to work.

But when talking about his club for more than half an hour, Girardi sounded like a manager who knows he must squeeze every bit of ability out of an aging roster packed with question marks and "ifs."

“There are a lot of things that we do need to iron out, more than I can remember,” Girardi said.

Girardi has some creative ways he could go in trying to turn last year's 84-win team into a playoff club. The Yankees are being proactive in attempting to find the extra victory or two that could be the difference in winning a weak AL East.

Let's go through some of the highlights of Girardi's news conference:

1. A six-man rotation: It seems certain the Yankees are going to go with a six-man rotation early in the season. Girardi acted as if they are only considering it, but that is how he always approaches such things with the media.

It is a smart move. From the middle of April into May, the Yankees play 31 games in 32 days. It makes sense to mix in a sixth starter with the injury issues of Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, plus Michael Pineda's history.

The Yankees' five-man rotation is expected to feature Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. Chris Capuano, Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell can compete for the final two spots. Warren or Mitchell could be the swing man in the bullpen.

If the Yankees can keep a rested Tanaka healthy -- and with Ivan Nova returning in June -- they could have a strong rotation.

2. A two-headed closer: Girardi sounded as if he would like to have more of a set closer. If that is the case, Dellin Betances probably is the favorite, with Andrew Miller setting up.

The idea of leveraging the two, though, in the eighth and ninth innings seems appealing. It could be another way the Yankees are a little unconventional.

"I think you could do that," Girardi said. "We would like to iron it out. We would love to iron it out. But I think you have to see how people react."

3. A close eye on CC's knee: Girardi tries to avoid showing any cards, and much of his quotes are bland. Still, Sabathia's knee is something to watch. When asked about his concerns in his rotation, Girardi mentioned Sabathia first.

"You can start with CC," Girardi said. "Until you really get him into the rigors of pitching every fifth day, possibly going three or four turns on regular rest, you are not exactly sure how that knee is going to fare. We feel good about it. We feel good about where he is at right now, but pitching in games is different."

Keep in mind, Sabathia has not been very good since 2012, though some think he could bounce back.

4. The old guys: Likely the only way the Yankees' offense can be halfway decent is if Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira hit more like their younger selves.

"I think with a healthy Carlos Beltran and a healthy Mark Teixeira, we expect more production," Girardi said.

Look at the Yankees' projected order:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Brett Gardner, LF

Beltran, RF

Teixeira, 1B

Brian McCann, C

Chase Headley, 3B

Alex Rodriguez, DH

Didi Gregorius, SS

Stephen Drew, 2B

If Beltran and/or Teixeira do not have big years, it is hard to believe the Yankees will be much better than last year, when they were one of the worst scoring teams in the American League.